Chesterton Tribune

 

 

Liberty folks express dismay over Fox Chase / Chesterton sewer pact

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By KEVIN NEVERS

The Chesterton Utility did not approach Fox Chase Farms with an offer of extending sewer service. On the contrary, Fox Chase Farms approached the Utility.

That was Utility Service Board President Larry Brandt’s response at a public hearing on Monday, when a Damon Run Conservancy homeowner expressed her dismay that the Fox Chase subdivision looks to be getting new sanitary sewer service not from Damon Run’s system but from Chesterton’s.

The purpose of the public hearing was to take comment on the project’s preliminary engineering report (PER), a prerequisite of securing a loan from the State Revolving Fund (SRF). Members subsequently voted 5-0 to endorse the PER, which will now go to the Town Council for approval before being submitted to the Indiana Department of Environmental Management and the SRF.

John Sturgill of McMahon Associates Inc., the PER’s contracted engineer, opened the proceeding with an overview of the project, beginning with the need for it. Fox Chase Farm’s septic mound system, serving 88 homes, is in failure. Whispering Sands’ package treatment plant, serving 224 units, is at the end of its useful life and the management, Sturgill said, “has no interest in remaining in the wastewater business.”

Several alternatives were explored by Fox Chase Farms, including doing nothing and replacing the current system with a gravity sewer, Sturgill said. The option selected: replacing the current system with a low-pressure sewer and then “regionalizing” that sewer, that is, connecting it to the Chesterton Utility’s sanitary system. Whispering Sands at that point sought to “piggy-back” on the project.

The advantages of regionalization, Sturgill said: it “abates two existing discharges, consolidates service into a municipal setting, has an economy of scale in treatment costs, with the funding capability of the town and long-term maintenance.”

The basic specs of the project would be the installation of grinder pumps at each home at Fox Chase Farms, forcing wastewater to a new lift station in the subdivision which would pump it north along Meridian Road to C.R. 900N and then east to the recently completed lift station built as part of the Ind. 49 corridor project.

Total estimated cost of the project: $2.65 million. Of that the SRF would finance $1.9 million through a 20-year zero-intereest loan. The SRF would also make a $750,000 grant. The $1.9 million would be repaid through user rates and fees, with no debt at all incurred by the Town of Chesterton, Sturgill said.

Sturgill is anticipating a May 2015 start date and a November 2015 completion date.

Public Hearing

Two Liberty Township residents spoke at the public hearing.

The first was Ed Gutt, representing the Woodville Foundation, who had several specific questions he wanted answered. Gutt first wanted to know how much Fox Chase Farms homeowners will pay for sewer service. He also wanted to know exactly how the Chesterton Utility plans to assess them, given the fact that they’re all on well water.

Gutt expressed as well his displeasure with the ordinance enacted this past summer by the Town Council, which reserves the Utility’s right to provide sanitary sewer service to property owners four miles outside the town’s corporate limits. “I’m bothered by the ordinance,” Gutt said. “Other providers can’t expand. What about hook-up fees? We can’t use Damon Run but we must use the Town of Chesterton?”

“How can the town tell unincorporated areas what they can or can’t do?” Gutt asked. “We have some different feelings, motives, from what a city person, a town person, would have.”

Brandt began by saying that every Fox Chase Farms homeowner is expected right now to pay a monthly rate of $137, up from the current monthly rate of $95. Brandt acknowledged that those homeowners can’t be metered because they’re on wells. So each will pay the same rate, regardless of actual usage.

Whispering Sands will pay the Utility $4,700 per month, Brandt added.

As to the four-mile ordinance, Brandt said that the whole point of it is to protect the town’s multi-million investment in the Ind. 49 utility corridor, not to reduce Liberty Township residents’ options. “Indiana law allows communities to put a ‘halo’ around their towns to protect wastewater services, up to four miles.”

“If we’re going to invest a couple of million bucks, we ought to be able to protect that investment,” Brandt said. “But we don’t tell unincorporated folks what to do.”

Kris Borsodi, a Damon Run homeowner, spoke next. Her main point: there’s already a system in place and it’s called Damon Run. Why would the State of Indiana allow an expenditure of $1.9 million to enable Fox Chase Farms to go all the way to the Chesterton Utility for service?

This is a “customer-driven process,” Brandt replied. Just as Porter Regional Hospital chose Damon Run as its sewer provider, Fox Chase Farms has chosen the Chesterton Utility. “Fox Chase Farms came to us. They looked at Damon Run. They looked at South Haven. And they looked at a third provider. They as customers said ‘We’d rather connect to you guys.’ And then Whispering Sands said the same.”

Brandt added that the $750,000 grant and the zero-interest loan are pretty good indicators that the State of Indiana is in favor of the project. “You can tell the state is really in our corner,” he said.

“That’s really beautiful,” Borsodi said in response. “And here we at Damon Run are sinking.”

“That’s probably why Fox Chase Farms came to us,” Member John Schnadenberg said.

“So the state is coming up with the money to bypass a system that I’m forced to pay into at very high prices,” Borsodi said. “Is that it in a nutshell?”

“Yes,” Brandt said.

“So I have to take my complaint to the state,” Borsodi concluded.

Members then voted unanimously to endorse the PER and forward it to the Town Council.

 

Posted 9/16/2014

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
 
 

 

 

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